Friday, September 16, 2016




There are few foods which will clunk more satisfyingly to the bottom of your gut or stick more to your ribs: poutine, the quintessential pig-out dish from Québec.

Pronounced poo-TEEN, the classical version is a heap of crispy golden fries piled in a disposable bowl, mixed with cheese curds, then smothered in piping hot beef gravy. The stuff has in the past been hard to come by outside of Canada, but it is catching on as desperate French-Canadians export it to places like Florida, California, New York, France, and other poutine-bereft areas where they find themselves stranded.

Although scores of different versions now exist, this artery-clogging junk food was invented in the early 195Os, when a customer walked into a restaurant in Warwick, Québec, called "The Laughing Goblin" [Le Lutin Qui Rit], and special-ordered a pile of "frites" with brown gravy and cheese. The chef remarked, "That's a real mess", using the Québecois slang word for mess, which is "poutine", and dished it up. It was incorporated into his menu, and the rest is history.

There seems to be general agreement as to the original and optimum method of preparation:

Homemade fries, not frozen but ones actually cut off of potatoes in fat sticks, are fried golden, and placed in a bowl containing a handful of a particular type of cheese curd called "fromage en grain". It is not surprisingly a cheese named Kingsley, native to the Warwick area, mild, stringy and white, but not mozzarella or cheddar, similar perhaps to Monterey Jack, but shaped in many small lumps. More of this cheese is dumped on top of the fries, and then the entire melting mass is covered with preferably homemade and extremely hot brown beef gravy. The pile as it cools quickly coagulates into something resembling cement, and must be scarfed in haste, but not so soon that you burn the roof of your mouth.

There are some famous and not-so-famous variations on this theme, although the fries and cheese are considered the Traditional Constant.

"Poutine du Lac Long" has chopped beef and fried onions added.

"Poutine Italienne" has, as one might suspect, spaghetti sauce instead.

"Galvaude" is a poutine with chunks of chicken and green peas mixed in.

The concoction, whatever its ingredients, is admittedly hard on the stomach, an experience not helped by the fact that the traditional liquid accompaniment is lots and lots of beer. These potatoes are for couch potatoes, and exercise of any sort alter consumption is not recommended


©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
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